Saturday, June 26, 2004
Rolling Stone convenes with panel of experts
Rolling Stone magazine recently convened a panel of experts to help figure out what went wrong in Iraq.
<$These people are not light-weights
a few excerpts... just cause I can.
Gen. Anthony Zinni: We've had a year of disasters. The strategy going into Iraq was patently ridiculous -- this idea that we'd generate Jeffersonian democracy and plant the seed of freedom in the Middle East. The rationale was even worse: We grossly overstated the threat and cooked the books on the intelligence. Then we put on the ground a half-baked pickup team that has alienated the people and can't connect to viable leadership.

Gen. Wesley Clark: We went in with far too few troops and seat-of-the-pants planning. We've been there for more than a year, and the borders still aren't being controlled -- jihadis and extremists are coming in from Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Fuel convoys are getting routinely attacked; oil facilities and police stations are regularly targeted.

What about the blunders behind the scenes at the White House?

Sen. Joseph Biden: I've been a senator through seven administrations, and this is by far the most divided one I've ever served with. The internal discord is rampant. It's not just Colin Powell, who has differed with Vice President Cheney at every turn. It isn't just Richard Clarke and the others on the intelligence team who have angrily defected. It's General Eric Shinseki, who was fired for telling the truth. It's Lawrence Lindsay, Bush's economic adviser, who was fired for saying the war was going to cost $200 billion. The price tag is even higher now, and still they submit a budget for 2005 without a single penny for Iraq. What in the hell is going on?

Bob Kerrey: Karl Rove's hair is on fire -- he's worrying about what the polls are saying about America's attitude toward Iraq. Voters want out. The greatest risk is that we'll make decisions for political reasons -- that Rove will say we've got to call it quits or we're not going to win in November.

What would happen if we did pull out in a hurry?

Youssef Ibrahim: We've got to cut our losses -- the sooner the better. Our presence is only aggravating the chances for civil war. The best-case scenario at this point is for the U.S. to declare victory and get the hell out. Iraqi resistance is rising by the day, and the United Nations, NATO and the Europeans are refusing to come in. There is no fig leaf to put on this.

So let's assume we're in it for the long haul. How do we even begin to regain control?

Barnett: The Bush team needs to eat crow and make the tough deals necessary to internationalize this. They need to call a summit meeting of the major powers, including Russia, China and India, and say, "We have a problem in Iraq. Our loss would be as big a loss for you -- economically and otherwise -- as for us. What will it take to get 10,000 Chinese troops, 10,000 Indian troops, 10,000 Russian troops? What do you want in return?" We know what the deals are. India would probably demand, for example, that we don't declare Pakistan a major ally. Russia wants full membership in NATO. China might ask us to stop planning a missile defense in northeast Asia.

Should we even be talking about a June 30th hand-over? Are we prepared?

Clark: That date was picked as a political gambit before there was a real plan for what to do. We're not prepared, but we're not going to be able to renege on that commitment.

Surely the Abu Ghraib prison scandal didn't help. Should Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or other Bush officials resign?

Biden: I was in the Oval Office the other day, and the president asked me what I would do about resignations. I said, "Look, Mr. President, would I keep Rumsfeld? Absolutely not." And I turned to Vice President Cheney, who was there, and I said, "Mr. Vice President, I wouldn't keep you if it weren't constitutionally required." I turned back to the president and said, "Mr. President, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld are bright guys, really patriotic, but they've been dead wrong on every major piece of advice they've given you. That's why I'd get rid of them, Mr. President -- not just Abu Ghraib." They said nothing. Just sat like big old bullfrogs on a log and looked at me.

Beers: The Navy has a custom -- if a ship runs aground, the captain is relieved regardless of who is responsible. That's how Abu Ghraib should be handled.

Has the war at least produced a new respect for American military power?

Ibrahim: Hardly. We are no longer loved because of Iraq, and we are also no longer feared because of Iraq. The neoconservative dream of regime change throughout the region -- in Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Libya and Somalia -- is dead. Do you really think any of those countries are afraid of us after watching us bleed in the streets of Iraq?

In the near term, is a change of administrations the best way out of the quagmire?

Ibrahim: I voted for Bush, but I'd sooner die than vote for him again. The neocons are vampires through which we have to drive a wooden stake. Neoconservatism must end as an ideology if you want America to recover its position as leader of the world.

The Rolling Stone Panel: Gen. Anthony Zinni Commander in chief of Centcom, 1997-2000; special envoy to the Middle East, 2002-2003; author of Battle Ready

Gen. Wesley Clark Supreme allied commander, Europe, 1997-2000; led NATO military campaign in Kosovo Rand Beers Counterterrorism adviser to President Bush, 2002-2003; national security adviser to Sen. John Kerry Sen. Joseph Biden Ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Thomas P.M. Barnett Strategic adviser to the Defense Department, 2001-2003; faculty member of U.S. Naval War College; author of The Pentagon's New Map Fouad Ajami, Director of Middle Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University

Sir Jeremy Greenstock British diplomat in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, 1969-2004; U.N. representative, 1998-2003; special representative for Iraq, 2003-2004

Youssef Ibrahim Managing director of the Dubai-based Strategic Energy Investment Group; former Middle Eastern correspondent for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal

Bob Kerrey Senator from Nebraska, 1988-2000; president of New School University

Chas Freeman U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 1989-1992; assistant secretary of defense, 1993-1994

Now I left a lot out... go read the rest.

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